Witty, bold, and mischievous, spring upends winter with bird song and green growing things. Tulips, hyacinth, unfurling raspberry leaf. Crinkly fat rhubarb and battalions of mint. But also less well-loved plants—the noxious nettles and dandelions—raise their heads. Psst! The Urban Farmer has a secret. The menacing nettle and delinquent dandelions go great in soup.
First, though, it’s time for some gardening chores. The neighbor has offered the Urban Farmer all the compost she’s been accumulating in her big green cylindrical compost containers and harvest time has come. The Urban Farmer and her co-habitator shovel the compost out of the containers and sieve out the shards of glass and the cellophane packaging from cigarettes. Then she and co-habber dig down into the clay, pry out well-bunkered rock, drop wrinkled, multi-eyed seed potatoes into the holes, and cover them with wheel barrow dumpings of sieved compost.
After so much wrassling, it is time for spring tonic soup. Ahh! The goodness of nature boiled into a steaming bowl. Prima vera, we adore thee! Potato, onion, and garlic provide the tonic’s foundations. To this, the Urban Farmer adds leaf of dandelion and tender green, dust-free but still stinging, nettle tops. Pencil-thin leeks that have quietly over-wintered, young mint, and unfurled fern heads go in too. Chick peas scamper amongst the swirling sea of green.
Spring Tonic Soup
Saute 16 oz onion (1 large, chopped fine) in 2 T canola oil. If you have leeks, substitute some portion of leeks for the onion.
Add 5/8 oz garlic (abt. 2 T minced). Continue sautéing.
Add 8 and ½ c water. Bring to boil. Simmer 20 minutes.
Add 14 oz potatoes (3 medium yellow), peeled and diced.
Add 1 lb 4 oz cooked chick peas
Simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
(At some point, ladle out one cup simmering soup liquid and stir in 2 T each miso and tahini until well incorporated. This will be stirred back into the soup just before serving. Note: miso should satisfy your salt craving. Spring tonic shouldn’t need any salt in addition to the miso.)
Add some combination of nettle, dandelion, fern heads, and spinach (feel free to use frozen spinach) that totals 12 oz. by weight to soup pot. (If you don’t want to get all scientific about it, just add one big handful each of nettle and dandelion. And maybe two or three big handfuls of spinach. Or some other combo. I only used a few fern heads—maybe five or six—since the ferns aren’t as ubiquitous where we live and I don’t want to do irreparable harm to the plant. Also when harvesting the fern, you don’t want the tough fronds. You only want the new, young, yet to unfurl part. Use gloves when gathering the nettles. Try to minimize nettle contact with your skin. Also be careful when chopping. But don’t worry about eating the nettles in the soup. Cooking renders their sting harmless.)
Add 3/8 oz. fresh mint leaves, chopped (about 1 ½ cup before chopping). Bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce heat. Simmer for five minutes.
Stir in miso/tahini mixture.